Last night, the Euros began with an intriguing match-up between France and Romania. Many were anticipating a comfortable win for the favourites and hosts, but Romania proved no pushover and France’s defence wobbled at times. Nevertheless, a piece of magic from West Ham’s Dmitri Payet gave France all 3 points.
The first half started uneasily for the hosts, as Romania were denied by an instinctive Loris save and then came close again from the resulting corner. That was France’s weakness all game – defending, especially from set-pieces. However, Les Bleus grew into the game and Antoine Griezmann went closest, striking the post from a close-range header. At half time, Romania would have been the happier of the two sides, although France edged it.
Didier Deschamps did a superb job of motivating his players at half time and they came out for the second half full of energy. Dmitri Payet shimmied and twisted on the edge of the box, before curling in an inviting cross which Olivier Giroud beat the helpless keeper to, nodding into the empty net. The Stade de France erupted!
However, just a matter of minutes later, some more dodgy defending led to a clumsy challenge by Patrice Evra, and Romania had a penalty. Bogdan Stancu was cool as a cucumber in slotting home the penalty, and it was game on. For the next twenty minutes, Romania were steely in defence and kept France at bay. The entire game, though, France seemed a bit shaky at the back, and perhaps losing Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane in the past few weeks contributed to that.
But in the 89th minute, when France needed some inspiration, the ball fell to Dmitri Payet, and this happened:
France held out to win 2-1, which takes them to the top of Group A, and with matches against Switzerland and Albania to come, they perhaps already have one foot in the next round.
The standout performers for France, going forward, were Payet and N’Golo Kante. These two have burst onto the scene this year in the Premier League and seemed at home at this level, both dictating the play and barely putting a foot wrong.
France Player Ratings:
Hugo Lloris – 7: Crucial save inside the first 4 minutes and at the rare times he was called upon, he delivered.
Bacary Sagna – 6: An assured performance, although he wasn’t much of a threat going forward.
Laurent Koscielny – 5: He seemed to struggle a bit at the back when he was tested by the Romanian forwards, and will be relieved that they missed some big chances that he should’ve prevented.
Adil Rami – 7: If Koscielny was a bit uncertain, Rami was very steady, showing why he has so long been an important part of the France setup.
Patrice Evra – 5: Gave away a silly penalty from a poor foul and didn’t contribute to the game, going forward, as much as he’d have liked.
Paul Pogba – 8: Showed signs of Paul Scholes in his incisive passing, and was unlucky to have a superb strike palmed away.
N’Golo Kante – 8: Was the centre of everything, covering every blade of grass and keeping things ticking over in midfield.
Blaise Matuidi – 6: Put in a decent shift but lacked the killer instinct of the other creative players.
Antoine Griezmann – 5: Disappointing display from the man who France hope will deliver the trophy. Should’ve put away some of his chances.
Dmitri Payet – 9: Got an assist and the winning goal, and was involved in every France attack, cutting in from out wide or whipping in teasing crosses. His goal was one of the best we’ll see this tournament.
Olivier Giroud – 6: Got a headed goal, but missed a number of quality chances and never really posed a threat when the ball was on the ground.
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